Earlier this year my creative partner Tambi Lane and I spent a few days in New York City. We had some foodie business to tend to but we also had a bit of free time for exploring and playing. Since it was her first trip to New York, there were some special places I wanted to take Tambi (like Central Park and the James Beard House) but I also wanted her to choose something she wanted to do there. She chose a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I’m so glad she did; it was an afternoon I will never forget, just as September 11, 2001 is a day burned into our memories.
Tambi’s 9/11 Story:
I had taken my oldest daughter to preschool that morning and already made my way back to the house across town. We lived in Fayetteville, NC, just off the Fort Bragg Army base. My husband at the time was in the 82nd Airborne Division and was already at work for the day. This particular day was a normal day so far; I was getting ready to take care of some daily chores, put the baby to bed for a nap and wait until it was a little later on the West coast to call my dad to wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
I had the TV on and was watching some program; I can’t for the life of me remember what it is now, but I remember flipping through the channels as the news started to flood each channel to see if I could find ANYTHING else on. I finally hand to land on a channel and try to process the footage in front of me.
I was very young, in my early 20s, and I really could not figure out what I was seeing – I was completely confused. I remember watching the second plane hit. It was about then that I realized the severity of what my eyes were taking in and I knew that it was time to call my parents.
We talked for a brief moment, processing together. My dad’s birthday has never been the same for him.
Shortly after, a dear friend, who also had a child in preschool with my daughter called. She was crying, asking me to get the kids if anything more happened, as she wouldn’t be able to get there quickly enough, and keep them with me until she could get to us. Town was chaotic and everyone was in a panic. Being near a military base with special forces, the rumors began to fly that we might be the next target. They closed down the post and many people were unable to get from one end of town to the other without hours of detour. To this day, you can no longer drive through Fort Bragg without Military ID.
That dear friend also had a friend at the Pentagon who she was desperately trying to reach. My
husband was not allowed to call home. In fact, he couldn’t come home that night either. The post and airfield were on lock-down. We were not allowed to know if they were deployed or still on the base until they were released. I was alone with both kids, and thousands of miles from home.
We never had to get the kids early from school, but everyone was glued to the TV the entire day. I don’t remember much more. My mother had a coworker whose son had missed his train that morning. Otherwise he would have been in the towers.
Visiting the 9-11 Memorial:
This was one of the things I was most looking forward to on our NYC trip. I knew it would be a sobering experience, but no matter how much you prepare yourself for it, you are never ready. Just before we left on the Subway to go to the Memorial, we met up with a friend of Donna’s who told us his personal story of 9-11, a story Donna had never heard. It put this whole experience so close to home.
The fountains outside of the building in the footprints of where the towers used to be are haunting. We were there on a cloudy day with light rain. You can walk all the way around and the names etched in the sides of the fountains of those lost are just endless.
As you enter the building you are met with old supports from the original buildings and audio of people remembering where they were that morning … stories from Ground Zero … and everything is dark. Images are flashed on the walls - some are horrible scenes from that morning. Looks of sheer terror. I fought tears with every step. As you walk further there are mangled pieces of building and wads of metal. It took us several moments to realize one of these used to be a fire truck. The majority of the museum is off-limits to cameras. It’s harrowing. You can see behind glass the store fronts still covered in ash, baby strollers left, covered in debris. There’s an entire room dedicated to those lost. You can type in a name and family members have left messages with stories of them. There are photos of each person lost that day. It is a beautiful tribute.
We could have spent many more hours there, and I hope to go again. It was exceptionally done.
It was quite an experience and one I am very grateful for having and sharing with Donna on her
Yes, we visited the 9/11 Memorial on my birthday, kind of a weird way to celebrate a birthday maybe but I was so moved by the experience that it felt like I was in the right place at the right time. It’s an incredible museum and memorial – like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before. Mesmerizing. Profound. Captivating.
Since 9/11 happened when it did – with media and technology as advanced as it already was – the sound and images captured ‘live’ while it was happening, and those same sounds and images presented the way they are in the museum, is astounding. You feel immersed and taken back … and yet it’s so tasteful and poignant. Tiny details have been captured and preserved. Like Tambi said we could have spent another entire day there soaking it all in. Needless to say, I was moved. Beyond words. If you ever get a chance to go, go.
In 2001, I was living clear across the country in Oregon. I got an early morning call to get to the radio station where I worked asap. I dragged my young kiddos out of bed and much to their chagrin, they had to eat their breakfast in the station conference room while me and my co-workers watched the second plane hit LIVE on TV.
When I think back to that day, it’s the little things that linger in my memories – how quiet it was at my son’s football practice later that afternoon with no planes in the sky overhead and typically talkative parents standing quietly watching the boys play. How every moment of that day seemed to expand as if holding its breath – waiting for another shoe to drop, another attack, another explosion. How I tried to find words to comfort my children and explain what had happened.
As time unfolded, I met many people who were directly or indirectly affected by that day. People who worked in Manhattan who were sequestered in their office buildings for hours/days. People who lost someone close in the attacks. People who knew other people who lost someone. The connections went on and on. I recently read a report that said over 400,000 people in New York alone are suffering PTSD from the terror of that day. And I can never quit thinking about the three thousand children who had to grow up missing a parent who died in the attacks.
So, on this 9/11, as we reflect and remember, maybe send out a prayer … for healing, for light, for love, for all.